Unclaimed veterans honored in a long overdue military burial

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 10:36 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - On Thursday, community members from across the Panhandle came together to honor eight veterans from the Amarillo area who’s remains were never claimed.

But despite there being no next of kin to notify, the veteran community stepped in to claim them as their family.

Still across the country there are thousands of veterans who every day die alone, who’s ashes are often forgotten in a hospital’s basement or nursing home’s shelf.

The ceremony served as a way to make it up to these eight, by giving them the long overdue military burial they earned.

“How is it that we can have veterans that no one knew about?” said Randy Willmon, Potter County veterans services officer and navigator for the Veterans Resource Center.

Wilmon knew one of the eight veterans who were honored, Mr.Hacket. He met him while trying to help get him out of being homeless.

“A lot of our veterans have no one. Mr. Hacket served in Vietnam. He got out and civilian life just didn’t fit him anymore.” said Willmon.

He adds all that is left is to make sure these unclaimed veterans are remembered and help those still alive, so that these ceremonies are no longer necessary.

The Missing in America organization began in 2006 and works tirelessly across the country to find these ashes. So, far they have identified over five thousand unclaimed veterans.

“And then organizations like the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Organization actually serve as that next of kin to ensure that they receive the honors that they well deserve,” said Don “Too Easy” Ellison, road captain for Combat Veterans Motorcycle Organization.

During the ceremony, the names of each veteran and where they served were read out loud and sniffles from the audience were heard as many mourned the passing of veterans they never met.

But, this event is not the end. The remains of these vets will leave Amarillo Friday morning and be escorted all the way down to the Dallas National Cemetery by the Patriot Guard Riders and other veteran organizations.

“We meet people at different fuel stops all the way down. We have people on the over passes with flags, firetrucks,” said Perry Sampley, ride captain for Patriot Guard Riders “Going through some of the little town in Texas, people line up on the street to honor the veterans that are going through and the remains.”

He adds no matter how many times they do the drive, it is always special to see how the entire state shows up to show their thanks for their service.

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